How To Survive The PT School Interview

A couple of weeks ago a student Tweeted a semi-frantic question to The PT Student.  @lbroshi said, “Help please!  What are some questions that might come up during a DPT interview?”

Well, it’s hard to say because every program is different.  But, there are some general types of interview questions that everyone with a physical therapy school interview on their schedule will want to know.

The interview committee will likely ask you about your background, your history and your skills.  This is the easy part.  These are just the facts, and the questions will be some variation of the following:

  • What is your undergraduate degree? Where did you earn this degree?
  • Tell me about [this part of your resume] where you did [something].
  • Do you have any experience working with physical therapists?

Most of the time, the committee will be working from your resume and application, and wanting to know a little more about your educational background and work history.

But resumes and applications don’t tell the whole story.  Just because you were the president of the student body senior year doesn’t mean that you have the right personality for physical therapy.  What if you ran that student government like a dictator and plan to treat your patients the same way?  The interview committee has no way of knowing about your sinister history and evil plans.

They will try to figure out what kind of person you really are.  Instead of asking why will you make a good physical therapist, and listening to you (and all 99 other applicants) say, “I’m a people person,” they will probably ask you a behavioral question.  These types of questions are designed to elicit your personal traits and behavioral patterns by asking you to respond to a situation.  These are some typical behavioral questions:

  • Can you tell me about a time when you achieved a goal and how you did it?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you experienced a failure, and how you dealt with it?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a coworker, and how you handled it?

What the committee will be looking for is that you handle situations the way they expect a physical therapy professional to handle them. If you’ve clashed with a coworker in the past, did you blame everyone but yourself or did you take responsibility and solve the problem?  If you have struggled in the past, did you turn it into a positive?  Do you focus on problems, or do you focus on solutions?

The bad news?  If you provide answers that do not match with the school’s image of a future PT or PTA, you will probably not be admitted to the program.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  No one wants to spend two or three years in physical therapy school only to find that they don’t have the personality for it.

The good news is that if you are the kind of applicant they are looking for, your honest answers are all you need during the interview.  Practice beforehand by answering the above questions as if you are in the interview.  Definitely do this with a friend or family member who is not afraid to tell you what they think.  And, see if your friend will come up with a couple different questions that you have not seen before to help you get used to thinking about an answer on the fly.

One more piece of advice – don’t be afraid to take a moment to think about your answer before you start to speak.  Simply say, “I need a moment to organize my thoughts before I answer.”  Not only is this OK to do, but the interview team will most likely appreciate that you are being thoughtful about your answers.

Good luck in your interview!  Come back to The PT Student and tell us how it went in the comments section below.  Or, if you have any advice for others because you have already been there, share it!

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1 Response to How To Survive The PT School Interview

  1. Sunita Sudhakar says:

    I had a couple of physical therapy school interviews (one for Nova Southeastern University in Tampa, FL, which was actually a phone interview, and one for University of St. Augustine in St. Augustine, FL, which was an on-campus, face-to-face interview). Unfortunately, neither of these interviews were successful for me, and I was not accepted into either one of these places. I am really dying to get into PT school, and I am desperate to find out what I can do to improve my interview performance and make it successful so that I will have a better shot of getting accepted the next time I apply and interview. Please, any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your time!

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